Privacy - What Is That Again?

We're no longer just strangers in a crowd. Imagine any street corner in any town where, let's say, four people - Alexandria, Larry, Cory and Cameron - are lost in private thought. Without a single conversation, without even knowing their names, we could learn that Alexandria's angry ex-boyfriend posted her photo on a "revenge porn" website. That Larry is mourning the death of his daughter. That Cory is trying to scrub her image from friends' social networks. That Cameron picked the wrong place to hide from police.

In each case, a simple photograph of the four strangers, combined with the power of data, opens the door to deeply personal details. That's one of the many ways digital technologies are turning our once-personal lives into a global show-and-tell and redefining our expectations of privacy.

Almost every day brings new revelations about how Big Brother snoops on us and Big Data mines our online activities for profit. Even so, we are only beginning to understand the power of these incursions. In a few years, our faces alone, snapped on a street, in a crowd, or posted by a friend on the Internet, will be the key for a search engine to reveal the stories of our lives.



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